During the 1960s, when the first ikastolak (Basque language schools) subsequent to the Spanish Civil War were created after a long ban by the Francoist regime, some key people were essential to their success.

Imanol Urbieta was one of these pioneers. Ikastolak were in need of almost everything: a proper legal framework, economic support, and pedagogical materials in the Basque language. Parents navigated the legal system to make ikastolak legal, or at least to avoid being prosecuted; all kinds of organizations provided premises in which children would be comfortable; and teachers created materials to teach Basque and other topics.

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol Urbieta (c) during a popular tribute in 2014. Behind him, his spouse Kontxi Aizarna, who collaborated with Imanol. Picture CC-BY-ND by Urola Kostako Hitza

Imanol, one of the first teachers at the Salbatore Mitxelena Ikastola in Zarautz, Gipuzkoa, did some wonderful work in renewing the pedagogy and in the use of an innovative teaching tool: music and songs. Imanol’s songs (Ran Roberran, John Brown, Txiki txiki txikia, and so on) are part of the soundtrack of our generation’s lives. And of our children’s lives too, not only because we as parents sing them to our sons and daughters, but also because Pirritx, Porrotx eta Marimotots, the most renowned Basque clowns, sing them prolifically.

Imanol Urbieta died in Zarautz on September 28th, 2016 at age 83.